Fort Worth

Seminary trustees meet in closed session following president's comments on abused women

Paige Patterson on Wednesday, May 30, was removed from all positions with the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Paige Patterson on Wednesday, May 30, was removed from all positions with the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Star-Telegram file

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees met in a closed session Tuesday to discuss the performance of president Paige Patterson and the situation "currently facing the seminary."

Patterson has been under fire for the past month after his comments on abused women surfaced.

The trustees meet in public for 12 minutes before going into the closed session. Patterson seemed to indicate that he would be making a presentation to the trustees.

About 15 minutes later, Patterson left the meeting with about seven others. It is unclear if he returned because a seminary employee removed a Star-Telegram reporter from the floor where the meeting was taking place.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Here is background on the controversy.

The basics: Who is Paige Patterson?

Paige Patterson is the head of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a man credited with laying the foundations for the SBC as it exists today. In the 1970s and 1980s, he was key in leading the fight to make the SBC conservative.

“There’s hardly anybody alive who has higher stature in the SBC than Paige Patterson,” said Barry Hankins, the chairman of the history department Baylor University.

At the time the controversy began, Patterson was slated to be the keynote speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention in June in Dallas.

So why has he been in the news lately?

The saga of the Paige Patterson controversy began when a 2000 interview surfaced on the Baptist Blogger. Patterson recounted how he suggested abused women submit to their husbands and pray rather than seek divorce.

"I had a woman who was in a church that I served and she was being subject to some abuse and I told her, I said 'All right, I want you to do this every evening,' " Patterson said. "'Get down by your bed as you go to sleep, get down by the bed when you think he's just about asleep, pray and ask God to intervene.'

"I said, 'Get ready because he may get a little more violent when he discovers it.'

"Sure enough, she came to church one morning with both eyes black."

He called the story a success, because the woman’s husband came to church repenting and asking to be saved.

The internet exploded—and dug up more. A 1997 Atlanta-Journal Constitution article quoted Patterson cracking this joke about women: “I think everybody should own at least one.” In a 2013 sermon, Patterson urged Christians to keep marital problems (including abuse) in the church, lest they keep a judge from becoming a Christian. In a 2014 sermon, Patterson recounted admiring the body of a 16-year-old girl.

Patterson isn’t just accused of problematic readings of Scripture. He’s named in a lawsuit against Paul Pressler — a former Texas judge and legislator — accusing him for assaulting a former Bible study student. A Dallas Morning News article from 1991 accused Patterson of ignoring reports that another pastor, a protégé of his, sexually harassed a dozen women.

He’s done damage control, right?

Yes, but to limited success, as far as public image goes. Right after the 2000 interview came to light, Patterson put out a statement saying he did not condone abuse. In an interview with the Baptist Press, he said women might pray in cases of “non-injurious physical abuse which happens in so many marriages” (the Baptist Press edited the article to show Patterson’s “intent” and changed the quote to “minor non-injurious abuse,” only making Patterson’s detractor’s angrier).

By May 10, over two weeks after the first recording came out, Patterson apologized for not being as “thoughtful and careful as I should have been” in choosing his words.

Who cares?

For a sampling of how much stir this caused, over 3,200 women signed this open letter calling on the seminary trustees to take action in light of Patterson’s abuse comments. A Washington Post opinion writer called it the Southern Baptist "#MeToo moment." Prominent Baptist leaders tweeted criticism of Patterson—from condemnations of abuse that didn’t name him to openly calling for his resignation.

Anyone with more information should contact reporter Sarah Smith at ssmith@star-telegram.com

State District Judge George Gallagher sentenced Emiliano Patino, founder of Freedom in Worship Church, to 10 years in prison for child sexual abuse.

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